Vietnam War is history, has no place in 2004 election

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Vietnam War is history, has no place in 2004 election


By: Joe Galloway


August 30, 2004, WASHINGTON – One more time, with feeling: The Vietnam War has no place in the presidential election of 2004, much less being the ONLY issue anyone is talking about.

That war is over. It ended 29-plus years ago when the last helicopters lifted off the roofs of Saigon. Yet here we are busily dissecting the obscure events of an obscure part of that war.

     

in the 1960s and took five draft deferments. In fairness, John Kerry should never have mentioned his service in Vietnam when he launched his campaign. Surely he could have found something else to say about himself, like “I am NOT George W. Bush.”

The bitter harvest of the Vietnam War was a fracturing and polarizing of our country between left and right and a lingering insecurity that made us draw back from the world around us for a time.

Don’t get me wrong. Vietnam was important. To those who went there – some 3 million Americans served there or offshore during the 10 years when it was America’s war – it is still important and always will be.

But it is history now. Not only in our country but in Vietnam as well, where you would think the bitterness of losing over a million people killed would last forever. Not so. Some 65 percent to 70 percent of the Vietnamese alive today in Vietnam were born since the war ended, and their eyes are on the future, not the past.

And that’s precisely where our eyes should be focused in this important election in a new century: On the issues of the present and the future. On issues that both candidates ought to be addressing right now, just over two months from Election Day.

Instead of doing an autopsy on an old war, why don’t we talk about the war that is raging in Iraq? The one that is draining away $100 billion a year of our money and the lives and futures of hundreds of our sons and daughters. Let’s talk about the war in Afghanistan. The job we left undone when we turned to fight the one in Iraq.

Let’s talk about companies and individuals who are profiteering in the middle of wars that are taking the lives of our soldiers – companies that can’t find the records to back up billions of dollars in overcharges on contracts in the war zone.

While we are at it, let’s talk about the privatizing of war, American style: the hiring of contract security guards at $200,000 plus a year to do what soldiers do right next to them for a pitiful wage. And what about the hiring of contractors to conduct interrogation of prisoners?

Some are using the events of 35 years ago to assassinate the character of a candidate who fought in their war, beside them, in order to promote the re-election of a president who avoided that war and a vice president who said he had better things to do in the 1960s and took five draft deferments. In fairness, John Kerry should never have mentioned his service in Vietnam when he launched his campaign. Surely he could have found something else to say about himself, like “I am NOT George W. Bush.” 


Let’s talk about our place and our role in the world today, in a time when many in the Muslim world hate us, and the fanatic minority practice jihad (struggle) against us. I want to hear what we have achieved so far in the global war on terror, and what we have not. How come Osama bin Laden is walking around free when he is Enemy No. 1?


Let’s talk about $50 a barrel oil and $2.20 a gallon gasoline and the specific threat it poses to our economy. Is anyone talking about the fact that most of our fuel comes from very unstable and unfriendly places? That our own oil and gas production has been in decline for years? Is anyone talking about alternative sources of fuel and energy, or will we all just cruise on unaware and uncaring until we run completely dry?

Let’s talk about premiums for health care that are rising 15 to 20 percent a year for those who have jobs, and about the millions who have no health care benefits at all.

See how many other important issues we ought to be asking our presidential candidates to address, besides their military service in and out of Vietnam? Vietnam is important, but it is old business. We have today’s and tomorrow’s business to tend to this fall, and we and the candidates who want our votes need to get down to it without further digressions and sideshows.

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